You may have heard recently about new research which challenges medical advice that you must complete a course of antibiotics. Martin Llewelyn, a professor in infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex medical school, and colleagues claim that you should stop taking antibiotics when you start to feel better.
Traditionally patients have been told they must finish a prescribed course of antibiotics (the theory being that taking too few tablets will allow the bacteria causing their disease to mutate and become resistant to the drug) so you may find it confusing to hear this conflicting advice.
There is to date not enough research into the optimum length of a course of antibiotics, which also varies from one individual to the next, depending in part on what antibiotics they have taken in the past. Improvement in symptoms does not necessarily mean the infection has been completely eradicated. Besides, in many cases, courses are quite short – for urinary tract infections, for example, three days is often enough to cure the infection.
As evidence-based practitioners, we closely follow emerging research to inform our clinical practice. While we find this latest review interesting, and indeed it may lead to changes in practice down the line, for now we do not plan to change our recommendations on antibiotics on the basis of a single study.
It’s important that you do not change a recommended course of treatment without first discussing it with your doctor. If you have any concerns about this study or any aspect of treatment you are currently receiving, we will be happy to answer your questions during your next consultation.